Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Edina: the holy city?

The city council of Edina, sitting as Commissioners of Edina's Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) made a decision earlier this month (February 4th) to consider an action that almost certainly violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Article I, sec. 16, of the Minnesota State Constitution as well.

Although a little longer quote than Spot usually makes, it is worthwhile to reproduce the HRA minutes here:

RESOLUTION NO. 2008-02 ADOPTED SETTING MARCH 3, 2008, PUBLIC HEARING FOR ISSUANCE OF TAX EXEMPT REVENUE BONDS FOR CALVIN CHRISTIAN SCHOOL Executive Director Hughes explained Calvin Christian School has requested that the Edina Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) issue $1.5 million in non-profit revenue bonds to facilitate the expansion of their facility at 4015 Inglewood Avenue.  These bonds would be similar to those issued on behalf of Volunteers of America late last year.

Mr. Hughes explained the note has been proposed to be issued in a principal amount of up to $1,500,000 and the purchaser of the note will be Anchor Bank Woodbury.  The reason that the HRA rather than the City has been requested to issue the note is in order that the note can be “bank qualified” under Section 265(b) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.  Having the note bank qualified allows a bank to own the note and receive the tax-exempt interest thereon without losing an interest deduction.  The HRA and the City may issue bank qualified bonds if such entity and any subordinate entities will not issue more than $10 million of tax-exempt bonds in a calendar year.  At this time it is anticipated that the City will issue bonds in excess of $10 million in 2008, so if the City were to issue the note it could not be bank qualified.  However, the HRA does not expect to issue any tax-exempt obligations in 2008 and the City’s tax-exempt bonds are not taken into account in determining whether the HRA is eligible to issue bank qualified bonds.

Mr. Hughes said the debt service on the note will be payable solely from payments to be made by CCS, and the HRA will not have any liability with respect to the note.  CCS will pay all HRA expenses with respect to the note and upon issuance of the note will pay the HRA a fee in accordance with the City’s policy for the issuance of revenue bonds (1/2 of 1% of the original principal amount of the note).  He added, in 1995, the City adopted guidelines for the consideration of tax exempt revenue bonds.  The proposed use of the bond proceeds appears to comply with the guidelines in that a significant amount of the proceeds will be used for property improvements.

Mr. Hughes stated the revenue bonds were not backed by the general obligations of the City and repayment would be the sole obligation of Calvin Christian School. He suggested if the HRA wished to consider this request, a hearing be scheduled for March 3, 2008.

Following a brief discussion, Commissioner Housh made a motion to adopt Resolution No. 2008-02 setting March 3, 2008, as the hearing date for the Calvin Christian School Tax Exempt Revenue Bonds. Commissioner Swenson seconded the motion.


   Ayes:  Commissioners Bennett, Housh, Masica, Swenson, Hovland

   Motion carried.

Aw, what's the matter with that, Spotty?

Well, nothing, Spot supposes, if you think that city government ought to be in the business of facilitating the financing of parochial schools.

Maybe it's just for the irreligious, I mean non-religious part of the building, Spot.

Perhaps you will explain to Spot what part of the building that is, grasshopper, when the Calvin Christian School website opens like this:

Because this world belongs to God
For more than 40 years, Christian parents in the Twin Cities have partnered with outstanding teachers to lay the educational foundation for a God-centered life. From the sciences to the arts, from the classroom to the playground, every part of the Calvin experience is built on biblical principles and focused on equipping young disciples of Christ for leadership and service.

Calvin Christian School works to permeate learning with faith on its K-8 campuses in Edina and Blaine and its high school campus in Crystal.

At Calvin Christian School, the commitment to a God-honoring education has never been stronger.

Spot calls your particular attention, boys and girls, to the phrases "every part of the Calvin experience is built on biblical principals" and "CCS works to permeate learning with faith."

It doesn't sound to Spot as though much effort is made to separate the sacred from the secular, in fact quite the reverse.

And these people won't educate just anybody. Before little Johnnie or Janie can be admitted, the parents have to have received the Christian Seal of Approval from the pastor of their church. The pastor is asked to opine on whether the parents are "practicing Christians." And whether they attend church regularly.

Here's just a bit from the CCS "Statement of Faith":

God has revealed himself to us both through the Bible, which is his infallible, authoritative written word, and through the universe that he created and faithfully sustains.

This means the whole nine yards on the creation story and the rejection of science. It also means, by the way, gays hated here.

This is the same outfit that obtained a conditional use permit for its building expansion in part by agreeing to keep more that twenty mature trees for the benefit of the surrounding neighborhood. The trees were razed, apparently without even mentioning it to the city. If you have any questions about that, send ol' Spotty an email.

Even if this was not a religious institution, it is not the kind of good neighbor that the city ought to go out of its way to help. CCS will undoubtedly try to pack the hearing on March 3rd (note that it is a Monday night; not the usual city meeting night). Spotty urges you, Cakeville boys and girls, to go if you can, and oppose this terrible idea. You can also write to the council using this address:

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